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Saints' lawyer: Team won't address claim GM covered up pill theft

NEW ORLEANS -- An attorney for the Saints said Wednesday that the club will wait until trial to respond to a former security director's allegations that it tried to cover up prescription Vicodin thefts at team headquarters.

The Saints won't settle with Geoffrey Santini and won't publicly discuss the lawsuit that he filed against the team until it goes to court, lawyer Phil Wittman said.

"We're in litigation with Mr. Santini, and I feel we should proceed with the legal process and not make any media comments at this time," Wittman said. "The courts don't like it when you try your case in the papers."

Wittman's comments came after Santini said in an interview with Gannett Louisiana Newspapers that he regrets not going straight to Saints owner Tom Benson when he found out about missing prescription drugs at team headquarters. Santini said he instead went to Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who allegedly tried to cover up the theft and improper distribution of Vicodin from the team's prescription drug locker.

Santini wound up resigning in August because of his dispute with Loomis over how to handle the matter, and he filed suit April 30, seeking damages and back pay.

"Mickey was a friend of mine," said Santini, a retired FBI agent. "I considered him a friend, and I've always respected a chain of command. So I didn't go to Tom Benson. I didn't want to have to put Mickey in a position that he couldn't recover from if in fact I thought I could save this.

"I did everything, believe me, that I could to stop this," Santini said. "I tried to use everything I've ever learned -- the hundreds of times that I've dealt with bringing people in behind closed doors legally and getting things worked out."

Santini's lawsuit says one unnamed staff member stole Vicodin while another was allowed to take an amount that far exceeded an amount appropriate for any known medical condition he had.

People familiar with the case have told The Associated Press that the staff member alleged to have stolen Vicodin was linebackers coach Joe Vitt and the one who reportedly was allowed to take excessive pills was head coach Sean Payton. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the allegations.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel initially denied all allegations and said Santini was a disgruntled former employee trying to squeeze the team for money. Payton also issued a statement denying he ever stole or abused Vicodin. No one on the team has addressed the allegations directly since.

Both the theft of Vicodin, a scheduled narcotic, and any attempt to cover that up would be state and federal crimes. The Federal Drug Administration has acknowledged that it's aware of the case and an investigation is pending. Authorities in Jefferson Parish, where the civil case was filed, say they aren't investigating at this time.

Santini said he has video and audio recordings to back up his claims, including recorded conversations with trainers Scottie Patton and Kevin Mangum in which they discussed being ordered by Loomis to forge entries in official prescription drug logs to cover up the Vicodin thefts.

"It broke my heart to have to put a recorder on these people -- absolutely broke my heart," Santini said. "Let's make one thing perfectly clear, I have no ill will against the Saints. I am so happy that they got to the Super Bowl and won it. I had no intention and still have no intention of hurting the New Orleans Saints, the players or other coaches.

"I was witnessing crimes, and I wasn't going to stand for that," Santini said. "I did everything I could to save the people that were involved, but it just didn't go that way. Mickey didn't let it."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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